WOSTER: Life is a challenge, why make it harder?

So now we have people stumbling around in blindfolds, crashing into furniture, walls and other people. It's a craze, or a "challenge,'' as we like to call things these days, even if they're silly, unnecessary and not very challenging at all. This...

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

So now we have people stumbling around in blindfolds, crashing into furniture, walls and other people.

It's a craze, or a "challenge,'' as we like to call things these days, even if they're silly, unnecessary and not very challenging at all. This one is the Bird Box challenge, based on a recent movie in which people stagger around blindfolded so they don't catch a glimpse of a mysterious force that, if seen, causes humans to harm themselves.

What happened? Did we run out of Pokemon? Did we "catch 'em all?'' Did we eat all of the Tide pods?

I know every age has its fads, its crazes, its "challenges.'' I grew up hearing about, even seeing news photographs of, efforts to stuff as many people as possible into a phone booth, back when phone booths existed. I remember when teen-agers would see how many could wedge into a Volkswagen bug, and when people would take turns seeing how many goldfish they could swallow.

I remember, too, back in Chamberlain, when we'd see how many people could squeeze into our parents' sedan - trunk included - to get into the double feature at the outdoor theater on Buck Night. At least we had a solid purpose. We were trying to see a film on the cheap.


When I left home to attend Creighton University in Omaha, I was surprised to learn there was a fad that involved college kids taking a bed from someone's dorm room and pushing it up and down the city streets. I had to ask my dorm proctor what the priest meant in a Sunday homily when he sarcastically told the freshmen in Wareham Hall in 1962 that we should do something constructive. "Why don't you push a bed to Lincoln?'' When the proctor explained what that meant, I must confess that, for an 18-year-old kid from farm country, the idea had a certain noble appeal, a certain challenge. I never tried it, of course.

Those crazes, except for catching Pokemon and swallowing packets of laundry detergent, were long before social media. A news photographer might capture the moment quite by chance, or a participant might use a Brownie camera to snap a shot (which we would see weeks later when the rest of the film had been exposed and photos printed commercially). Otherwise, the challenges went unrecorded except in the memories of participants and witnesses.

This Bird Box deal is happening in a time of instant response. It showed up on a network news program the other morning.

Now, I watch few movies, so it's mostly chance that I saw "The Bird Box'' during the holiday break. Sandra Bullock stars. Blindfolded, she tries to guide her blindfolded children to a safe haven. Our younger son suggested we watch it, so Nancy and I spent part of a rocking New Year's Eve with one of the streaming services. I quite enjoyed the film, but then I've spent most of my life fumbling around as if blindfolded.

Just days later as I watched the morning news, I was treated to clips of people doing the Bird Box challenge. In one clip, a small child dragged by an adult smacked into a wall while the adult made it through the doorway. If I were that child, I think I might develop trust issues.

As I watched, I wondered if the network might not find more meaningful information to disseminate in its limited time on the morning news show. If I wish to see social-media clips of random people hurting themselves while blindfolded, I know how to reach Facebook and Twitter and the other platforms. I tune in to the morning news show hoping to see news.

I read that Netflix, which showed "The Bird Box,'' is worried about the craze its film has sparked. Netflix posted a Twitter caution that says, "Can't believe I have to say this, but PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE.'' (Capitalization theirs.)

As we watched the movie on New Year's Eve, I never once had the urge to put on a blindfold and stumble around. I'd rather push a bed up and down Interstate 90.

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